Christmas Card Cares

Earlier this week I was so glad to get the mail and see several Christmas cards postmarked on Christmas Eve. I love the pictures and the letters--especially from people I can't keep up with on Facebook!

My excitement was tempered by some of the news carried in those messages. My heart has been heavy as I realize that age and illness is catching up with my parents' generation. People I love are in failing health and I'm too far away to spend time with them.

Earlier this month I went "home" to attend the memorial service of one friend's father; two emails tonight informed me of similar losses for other friends.

Once upon a time I set out to get my counseling degree. I wanted to help others with burdened hearts. As I progressed through the program though, I realized that I lack a fundamental trait to do the job well--I'm not very good at detaching myself from others' issues. I wouldn't be very good at turning out the light at the end of the day and leaving what I'd been told on the desk. I don't just 'hear' the problems, I feel them and carry that feeling with me.

And so, I struggled with the news that arrived in my mailbox and my inbox. The admonition to "bear one another's burdens," weighs heavy.

Thankfully, I'm reminded that there is no burden I have to bear alone, "Give all your worries and cares to God, because he cares for you."

As I feel the weight of troubles--mine, those close to me...the world's--I am making a new effort to re-direct them to the Shoulders broader than mine and the Back stronger.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

I will catch up on our 25 Stories of Advent soon. I got behind during a quick trip to my hometown for the memorial service of a dear friend's father.

Mr. Estes was one of a kind. And I can't think of anyone for whom the title "Faithful Servant" is more apt.

I first knew Mr. Estes (Jim) as Brent's dad, but over the years he became dear to me for reasons all his own. Each person at the service had different, but connected memories of him:  father, grandfather, uncle, brother, Boy Scout leader, church usher, electrician, mentor...faithful servant.

In my nearly 20 years at my home church, Mr. Estes was the most familiar face at the door. I was typically greeted with a teasing tap on his wristwatch and a winking-frown accompanying the familiar, "You're late," as I slipped into the sanctuary after the first song began.

His ex-Marine exterior came across as gruff, but he loved young people and dedicated more than 40 years serving the Boy Scouts organization in many capacities. He also served on the board of a nearby Christian conference center, working tirelessly to create and maintain a place where scores of children would come to learn of the Lord he served so faithfully. Even in a leadership capacity though, he never sought the limelight or accolades. He never gave an order for something that he wasn't willing to do right alongside.

A different side of Jim emerged as his wife of 55 years disappeared into the distance created by Alzheimer's disease. Jim greeted the staff on his daily visits to her care home with a smile, a tease and a treat. His tender care for Pat and his unending commitment to her touched everyone who observed it.

I saw him last when I went home in September for my class reunion. He was at his usual place by the entrance on Sunday morning. I got a smile and a hug while he slipped my son a mint.

I look forward to seeing him again one day, standing opposite St. Peter at the gates of heaven. I'm sure he'll tap on his wrist, smile and say, "You're right on time."

And I hope he slips me a mint with the hug.
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